Hazelhoff-Roelfzema, Barnwell exec, 90
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Curtis Lum
Erik Hazelhoff-Roelfzema lived the life that movies are made of.
He escaped Nazi-occupied Netherlands; was a secret agent who took part in covert landings along the Dutch Coast during World War II; flew in the elite Pathfinder Force of the Royal Air Force; was an aide to Dutch Queen Wilhelmina, who knighted him for his service to Holland; and he flew Princess Beatrix back to the Netherlands after the war and took part in her coronation when she became queen.
After the war, Hazelhoff-Roelfzema was a writer for the first "Today" show and helped to launch the "Tonight Show." He wrote a book about his life during the war, "Soldier of Orange," which was made into a movie in 1977 that was nominated for a Golden Globe award.
Hazelhoff-Roelfzema also was instrumental in bringing the then-Tennessee-based energy company Barnwell Industries to Hawai'i in the early 1980s. The company drilled the first commercial geothermal well in Puna on the Big Island in 1980, and it continues to be a leader in development in Hawai'i and oil and natural gas exploration in Canada and North America.
Hazelhoff-Roelfzema, who moved to Hawai'i in the early 1970s and joined Barnwell as a director in 1977, died Wednesday at his home in Honoka'a on the Big Island, the company announced yesterday. He was 90.
Alex Kinzler, Barnwell president, said Hazelhoff-Roelfzema was an active and valued member of the board.
"He had great business advice and was an excellent judge of people, which he attributed to his war-time exploits and his need to make snap judgments of people that he met in the Resistance as to whether he could trust them or not. That was invaluable to our company over the years," Kinzler said.
Hazelhoff-Roelfzema was born on April 3, 1917, in Java when it was still a Dutch colony. In the late 1930s, he helped to form the Dutch underground before joining the RAF.
Following the war, he emigrated to the United States and got involved in a wide range of ventures, including television.
Although he had no training in energy development, Hazelhoff-Roelfzema joined Barnwell Industries while it was still based in Chattanooga. Kinzler said he encouraged the company's chairman to look to Hawai'i because of "some deals that he was aware of," and Barnwell relocated here more than 25 years ago.
Kinzler said Hazelhoff-Roelfzema was active in the Waimea community. He was a member of the Waimea Outdoor Circle, the Kahilu Theatre and other organizations.
He said the community and Barnwell will miss Hazelhoff-Roelfzema, who Kinzler said was a "mentor to everyone."
He is survived by wife, Karin; son, Erik Hazelhoff-Roelfzema Jr. ; daughter, Karna Hazelhoff-Castellon; a granddaughter; and a great-granddaughter.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Reach Curtis Lum at email@example.com.